Saturday, November 9, 2013

Thoughts on the 2013 Elections: Virginia and New Jersey

Last Tuesday, many states, cities, and municipalities held elections to the confusion of many.  So, what can we take away from these elections?

New Jersey: Governor Chris Christie was re-elected with 60% of the vote in New Jersey.  During his victory speech, it was easy to confuse his election with the kickoff for his 2016 Presidential election.  Many political commentators stated that this was a win for the "moderate" Republican governor.  But, really, Christie is only moderate compared to the style of the Republican party, right now, where the inmates are running the asylum.  But Christie is, for the most part, a pragmatic governor and was heavily re-elected.  He became the first Republican Governor to win more than 50% in a gubernatorial election, in a long time.  But interestingly, Christie was not a supporter of Public Question #2, which amended the state's constitution to raise the minimum wage by $1 an hour and indexing it to inflation.  Public Question #2 ended up being more popular than Christie, garnering 61% of the vote.  So, if people don't agree with Christie's policies, why are they voting for him?  You should probably ask the voters.  But I imagine, most of it is name recognition.  I don't think it is, as much, a referendum on TEA Party politics, as it is just a re-election of a Governor who people know.  But good news for Christie's 2016 presidential aspirations, he was able to split the Hispanic vote with Barbara Buono.  That's insane.  If I was Christie, I would be running on my ability to pick up voters where other Republican candidates fail.  I know people will likely say, Ted Cruz can get the Hispanic vote since he is Hispanic. But that is lazy analysis.  Veterans are now allowed to use revenue from games of chance to help finance their operations.  So, yay!

Virginia: Terry McAuliffe was such a terrible candidate.  Ken Cuccinelli, somehow, was worse.  But despite polls showing McAuliffe being up by close to 7 points according to most polls, including my projection system, he was only able to defeat the TEA Party backed Ken Cuccinelli, by 2.5% of the votes.  Cuccinelli mentioned in his concession speech, that despite being outspent by nearly $15 million, the vote came down to the wire because of the failed rollout of Obamacare.  But, I think it is more likely that the two candidates were terrible.  People saw the polls where McAuliffe was winning by a wide margin, so maybe they thought they didn't need to vote.  A lot of people were on the fence about voting for McAuliffe, because of his terriblenesss, and when they saw those polls, they may have decided that their votes didn't need to be counted.  That is a potential danger of polling.  But McAuliffe was definitely aided by Cuccinelli doubling down on social conservatism by being even more adamant about his pro-life policies.  20% of the Virginia electorate said that abortion was the biggest issue in the election.  McAuliffe was able to win those voters 2-1.  The lieutenant governor race was interesting for a second.  E.W. Jackson  ran against moderate Democrat Ralph Northam.  Because, in part, of his crazy beliefs about homosexuals, Jackson was only able to pick up 45% of the vote compared to Northam's 55%.  But the most interesting race, now, is the attorney general race in Virginia.  They're still counting votes in Virginia about who will win that race.  Republican Mark Obenshain was barely leading Democrat Mark Herring.  But previously uncounted votes are helping Herring and he will likely win, now.  If he does win, he will be the first Democrat to hold the attorney general's office in Virginia in 19 years.  According to some, Obenshain is similar to Cuccinelli in his right-wing babble.

The takeaway from these elections:  If Herring is able to upset Obenshain, then we will have the two statewide elections basically focus on those that are considered moderates, as opposed to ideologues.  While I don't think Christie is a moderate, the narrative around Christie is that he is a moderate governor.  McAuliffe was terrible but was able to focus on bipartisan solutions for his election.  Northam has been a star in the making for moderate Democrats for years was matched up against a right-wing nutcase in Jackson.  Herring is moderate, especially compared to Obenshain.  This is slightly surprising because it is an off year election.  You would think that ideologues would be able to do better in these elections compared to the moderate candidates.  Is the electorate going to be more moderate for the 2014 and 2016 elections?  I hesitate to say, for sure, but it seems to be swinging that way.  Many candidates will be focusing on being the more moderate candidate, but election turnout will determine the elections.  Usually, people who can fire up their political base do better in non-presidential years.

Another way of looking at the elections is that whoever spends more money wins the election.  That's a probable conclusion, especially for off-year elections.  We can focus on moderate candidates, but ultimately, the amount of money spent in the off-year elections will determine the House and Senate in 2014.

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